According to science-y studies, 40% of our total happiness allotment in life is directly within our control. That means nearly half (after all, 40% is the new 50%) of how happy we are on a regular basis can be changed. By following certain activities and putting into place specific practices and habits, we can actually become significantly happier.
That’s the thesis in Sonja Lyubomirsky’s book, The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want, and it’s a theory I can really get behind. Some thinking on happiness has argued that we all have a happiness set point – a complex point determined by our genetics, disposition, circumstances, gender, age, and the basic fact that we are all different people leading different lives in different places. And that thinking also says that while certain events and life changes might briefly cause a fluctuation in that set point, after a time, happiness levels settle back to their pre-set point. The How of Happiness contends that yes, we have a set-point, and yes, we return to that set-point following most of life’s events or changes, but it argues that, crucially, the set-point itself is what CAN be changed. We can lift that set point so our base happiness level is higher. That’s where the 40% part comes in.
“The key to happiness lies not in changing our genetic make-up…and not in changing our circumstances…but in our daily intentional activities.”
~from the How of Happiness
The book lumps its happiness-improving activities into four categories:
- Practicing Gratitude and Positive Thinking
- Investing in Social Connections
- Managing Stress, Hardship, and Trauma
- Increasing Flow Experiences
Sounds good so far, right? Now we get to the (non-dairy) cream – the 12 strategies that Sonja recommends to really get our happiness muscles growing.
Now, of course, for the sake of simplicity, I haven’t included all of the details surrounding these activities, which perhaps would be more appropriately named the 12 steps OF happiness, or, as she refers to them in the book, the 12 strategies for becoming happier. The book provides examples of each activity and also gives supporting facts that demonstrate why that activity works. It’s a great reminder to be mindful, seek out joy, and put thoughtful study into really considering what makes us happy.
Which isn’t to say that you can’t get started with what’s here. Take a look at each of the strategies and think about where you are lagging, or lacking time, or feeling particularly keen to improve.
If you are interested in happiness, I highly recommend reading the book. Sonja’s books are always smart, detailed, evidence-based, easy to read, and incredibly useful. Who doesn’t want to be happier?
Because remember: 40%! Half a pie of happiness is yours to discover.
Reading List: The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want. Author: Sonja Lyubomirsky.
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